Grad Spotlight: Juan David Jimenez Pardo

Juan Jimenez
Jimenez Pardo in front of a wheat field, one of the experimental plots he worked on.
Monday, December 12, 2022

Grad Spotlight: Juan David Jimenez Pardo

This is a continuation of our "IANR is Global" series, which highlights the many ways internationalization is woven through the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources: through research collaboration, government and private industry partnerships, extension work, student educational experiences and the IANR community from around the world.

This edition is specifically focused on the many individuals with diverse experience from around the world who are graduating this year. Juan David Jimenez Pardo, a native of Colombia, will recieve his master’s degree in plant breeding and genetics during December's ceremonies. We appreciate the community we are fortunate to have from all over the world, as shown by their many and varied contributions to the work of the university and our continued mission to create a globally engaged institution. To this end, we want to help our campus community get to know each other (and the world) more, starting with these individuals. 

How did your first get interested in your field? What was your previous education?

I am from Colombia. I did my bachelor's degree in Agricultural Sciences and Production at Zamorano University in Honduras. When I was in my second year, I took a plant breeding course and I immediately fell in love with the art and science of breeding new crop varieties because of the impact that it has on human food security. I did my thesis project in the dry region of Honduras, where I investigated a fungus that kills common beans that grow in extremely dry conditions. I saw the impact of my research on farmers in the region who were growing common beans to generate income and ensure food for their families, and at that moment I realized that I wanted to become a plant breeder to support farmers in their mission of feeding the world.  

What have been some challenges you’ve faced here? Opportunities? Things that surprised you.

My welcome to Nebraska was right after my birthday on January 25, 2021, with 14.5 inches of snow. Being away from home in a different culture, with less sunlight and other extreme weather conditions was very difficult for me. It was the first time I experienced snow in my life. I also had to take all my courses online due to COVID and only made one virtual friend at the time. It was very difficult for me, but my passion for plant breeding and the opportunity to be at UNL motivated me to get through it and at the end, I was amazed at how my body and mind were able to adapt to different extreme conditions.  

Juan Jimenez

Who was your advisor? Anything you’d like to share about them? Or say to them? 

My principal advisor is Dr. Katherine Frels and the members of my graduate committee are Dr. P. Steve Baenziger, Dr. Jinliang Yang, and Dr. Diego Jarquin From the University of Florida. During my master's degree, my main advisor gave me the confidence and freedom to investigate, use different facilities and resources, and propose innovative ideas to develop my thesis project. Members of my graduate committee consistently supported me with their advice and encouraged me to develop a wide range of skills to become a plant breeder. I am very grateful because all this made me grow as a professional and as a person. It forced me to be independent, to be mature, and to learn by doing and I believe that what is learned by doing is never forgotten. 

How has your time at Nebraska impacted you in what you will go on to do?

Nebraska changed my vision of the United States. I found a family and a home here. I had the privilege of meeting great people who showed me true American culture; hard-working, family-oriented people with a great passion for agriculture, who offered me real friendship. Their brotherhood and camaraderie will be something I will never forget.  

What do you plan to do now? What are your future goals/plans? 

I will start my Ph.D. at the University of Florida in January 2023 in the Blueberry Breeding program in a project that aims to improve the crunchiness and other quality-related characteristics of the fruit. My master's degree in plant breeding at UNL helped me establish a solid foundation of knowledge to start my Ph.D. at the University of Florida. UNL made me a breeder and now my greatest desire is to continue my training to serve farmers around the world. I want to focus on developing crop varieties that are more beneficial for human nutrition and environmentally sustainable. I believe that hard work, a good attitude, and passion are the fuel to achieve our dreams. 


Are you or someone you know graduating this year (or the future) and have an international element to your work, studies or experiences you'd like to see highlighted? Contact Shabani at